It's always interesting when a coach puts his team up against his alma mater.
But Hampton head coach Connell Maynor's Pirates squad needs a win in this, his first year, at the Hampton helm. So the A&T grad can put his devotion to the side as the Pirates take on North Carolina A&T tonight.
"A&T is my alma mater, but I am the coach at Hampton, so hopefully there will not be too many boos," he said. "But I think it is going to be great, and I am so looking forward to it.”
At 1-4 and 0-1 in the conference, Hampton can't afford to lose another game if they hope to hang on in the MEAC race.
The Pirates will be playing just a day after the school announced that defensive coordinator and former Fayetteville State head coach Kenny Phillips has taken an indefinite leave of absence to deal with unspecified personal issues. Tremayne Henry will take over the spot on an interim basis.
That's important this week as A&T will be looking to get back on the scoreboard after being shut out last week, 13-0, by South Carolina State. Despite being shut out last week, North Carolina A&T leads the MEAC in scoring offense, mainly because of running back Tarik Cohen and quarterback Kwashaun Quick. They are the conference's second (Cohen averages 122 yards rushing a game) and sixth (Quick is good for 66 yards on the ground each game to go with his 145 yards passing a contest) rushing duo.
Last week, SCSU only allowed 49 yards rushing to Cohen. And Quick is out for a second straight game with a knee injury, replaced again by freshman Hasaan Klugh.
“If we’re facing a freshman who hasn’t played a lot, we’re going to stack the box, take away the run and make him throw,” A&T head coach Rod Broadway told the News and Record newspaper. “That’s smart. That’s what South Carolina State did, and it’s what I would’ve done.”
The Aggies are also stout on defense as they give up only 15 points a game, best in the MEAC.
"They're very athletic, they've got a lot of talent, a lot of speed," said Maynor. "Offensively, they've been scoring points … even though they got shut out last week, a lot of that probably had to do with being without their starting quarterback. They're playing great on both sides of the ball, so we've got to be ready to play."
But the Pirates have firepower as well. Running back Jorrian Washington is second in the nation with 204 all-purpose yards a game while quarterback Jaylian Williamson, the MEAC's top passer, leads the MEAC's top passing offense.
A national television audience will be watching all of this take place as ESPNU broadcasts tonight game from Aggie Stadium, where Maynor is part of the school's Hall of Fame, at 7:30 p.m.
"To come back and play A&T on national TV on a Thursday night is going to be real special for me and it is going to be great exposure for both programs," Maynor said.